So it's happened again - this time in one of the most remote, yet friendliest, nations on earth. In two terrorist attacks, it appears that at least 49 people have been killed and another 48 injured. Both totals may rise.
The motivation of the terrorist(s) - their numbers are as yet unclear - is easy enough to discern, based on the evidence they left behind. They claimed to be responding to prior acts of terrorism by Muslim fundamentalists. The fact that no such attacks have ever taken place in New Zealand, and that there's no evidence whatsoever that their victims ever espoused, encouraged or committed such acts, was clearly not a factor in their considerations.
Several years ago, after the Paris terror attacks of November 2015, I said about the Muslim terrorist attackers:
The perpetrators committed their crimes because they didn't regard their victims as being human. They were guilty by virtue of not being Muslims, or (in some cases) being Muslims who lived in too close an association with non-Muslims, thereby making themselves targets as well. The victims were 'guilty' of being infidels, and paid the price for their 'crime'. That's the way it is, for the attackers. We're justified in what we're doing, because God as we understand him has authorized and encouraged us to do it.
So, now we see the bitter fruit of such attitudes. The terrorist(s) in New Zealand had precisely and exactly the same attitude, in mirror image. They regarded their victims as guilty by virtue of being Muslims. It's a perfect illustration of how Newton's Third Law of Motion applies to politics and philosophy as well as to physics. "Every action begets an equal and opposite reaction." In Paris in November 2015, the "action" was against non-Muslims. In New Zealand, the "action" was against Muslims. Both were terrorism, pure and simple. Pot, meet kettle. Kettle, pot.
What's more, I guarantee you that right now, Muslim fundamentalist terrorists are outraged at this attack against their people, and are already planning a response in similar vein. It may be in New Zealand, or it may be elsewhere, but it will involve attacks against innocent non-Muslims in revenge for attacks against innocent Muslims. You can be absolutely sure of that. Goose sauce, meet gander.
Those attacks, in turn, will inspire more retaliatory terrorism . . . and yet more . . . and so the cycle will be perpetuated. At least some of the children's children of those who died today, and those who react to their deaths, will still be killing each other when we're all long gone. I warned about that, too, in my earlier article. I urge you to read the whole thing, to better understand the context of these remarks. Here's how I concluded it.
The attacks of 9/11 merited - required - a response. I have no problem with that at all. However, the response was not carefully planned, or thought out, or targeted. It's proved to be almost completely ineffective in curbing fundamentalist Islamic terrorism, which was the enemy responsible for those attacks. Instead, tens of thousands of American lives have been lost, or ruined due to crippling injury; entire nations and regions have been destabilized; the forces of Islamic fundamentalism have been galvanized into renewed efforts that have taken on new faces and forms and engendered even more dangerous terrorists; and tens of thousands of innocent civilian lives have been lost, and the lives of literally millions of civilians have been disrupted and uprooted, without any lasting solution having been forthcoming.
The War on Terror could not and did not prevent Paris 2015. It cannot and will not deter similar attacks in future.
And in the end, the bodies lying in the ruins, and the blood dripping onto our streets, and the weeping of those who've lost loved ones . . . they'll all be the same. History is full of them. When it comes to the crunch, there are no labels that can disguise human anguish. People will suffer in every land, in every community, in every faith . . . and they'll turn to what they believe in to make sense of their suffering . . . and most of them will raise up the next generation to hate those whom they identify as the cause of their suffering . . . and the cycle will go on, for ever and ever, until the world ends.
We cannot 'kill them all and let God sort them out' (and let it never be forgotten that those obscene, inhuman instructions were reportedly issued, not by a Muslim fundamentalist, but by an Abbott and Papal Legate of the Catholic Church). There are too many of 'them' to kill them all, just as 'they' can never kill all of 'us'. We cannot kill our way out of terrorism. We cannot kill our way out of the dilemma of being human, with all the tragedy that entails.
May God have mercy on us all.
I have no answers - nobody does. Perhaps the author of Ecclesiastes came close, in Chapter 9, verse 3. I don't know that it applies to all of us, but it certainly fits terrorists:
This is an evil in all that is done under the sun: that one thing happens to all. Truly the hearts of the sons of men are full of evil; madness is in their hearts while they live, and after that they go to the dead.
May Almighty God, by whatever name we know the Deity, have mercy on all who died in the New Zealand attacks, and also on us, who must strive - sometimes in vain - to make sense of it all. May we not be driven to the same evil as the attackers, in thought, or word, or deed.